Lingula anatina -
" Is a genus of brachiopods within the class Lingulata. Lingula or forms very close in appearance have existed possibly since the Cambrian. Like its relatives, it has two unadorned organo-phosphatic valves and a long fleshy stalk. Lingula lives in burrows in barren sandy coastal seafloor and feeds by filtering detritus from the water. "
Bay pulled me down to sit beside her on the rock border around the pool, the others coming to sit on either side of us. "Are you ready for the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" she asked, quietly, leaning into my shoulder.
"I thought I'd already seen it," I admitted, in awe of the idea of something more beautiful than what i'd just experienced.
Bay scoffed, "Just wait for it."
"You'll know when you see it."
As I'd thought, when Nerissa reappeared, she took a seat on the rocks far on the other side of Bay to avoid me. Though, I didn't mind her absence. It was harder to feel sorry when thinking of our relationship now. Now I only felt irritation when thinking of her.
Most likely the same thing she felt when thinking of me. Bay wrapped her arms around me, pinning my arms at my sides, and she squealed a little in excitement. It was a tight hold that would normally make me uncomfortable, but instead it caused me to laugh.
Probably from the anticipation of what was to come. The sky had been orange for a while now, but the sun had not officially set just yet. I could hear snippets of the dialogue from the other girls. They talked about other things, giving no hints as what I was waiting for.
Bay released me when Nick sat on her other side, instead turning to him and saying something quietly enough I couldn't hear. I felt a bit odd then, sitting on the outskirts of the others. But, just as I'd started to feel that way, someone sat in the open space on my other side.
It was David, positioned at least six inches to my left. His eyes remained forward or to the left—but they never crossed my direction. I folded my arms over my chest to keep in my body heat against the cool breeze beginning to set in.
The sun was hardly visible from this spot, setting quickly behind the horizon. "Shelley," I heard my name from a feminine voice, seconds before Serena moved to sit on the other side of David. Her action forced David further to the right, closer to me.
He was visibly uncomfortable with the change—jaw tensed, arms pulled in with hands in his lap, upper body completely rigid. I felt sorry for him, but there wasn't much I could do. Serena carried on with her words as if she didn't even notice, "Since this is your first Sundown, I'll explain what's going on when it happens."
"Oh, alright. Thank you," I leaned forward just a little to see her around David.
"No problem. It's gonna start any minute now."
"I could move over there, next to you?" I offered, pointing toward the row of empty rock on Serena's other side.
Serena almost laughed at my words, but instead settled for a bright grin. "That's okay. David here could use a little socialization. Couldn't you, David?" she rested the side of her head on her hand, her elbow on her knee, looking up at David patronizingly.
His eyes shifted toward her, his expression displeased, "How old are you now, Serena? Eleven?"
"You say that like you actually have any real concept of time," she snorted, sitting upright.
"And you do?" he raised a brow.
Serena chuckled, "Good point."
I found myself smiling gently at the interaction between the two. It was a kind of sibling banter I had not much exposure to. Though, I was absolutely sure it was impossible they could really be related.
In that instant, Serena's eyes lit up, and her mouth opened in a wide O as she sucked in an audible breath. "It's starting!" she exclaimed, wildly smacking her hands into David's arm.
He shied away from her desperately, leaning back and to the side—anything to make it stop. As I turned my attention onward to the water ahead, I saw just what she was getting so excited over. The sun had dropped fully behind the horizon.
In the dark clouds of the dimly lit sky, a lavender sparkle echoed across and overhead, like a shiny object being turned in the sun. The water was uncharacteristically still. It was a chilling sight to behold. Then, very suddenly, a soft light flashed on the ocean's surface a few yards from the shore.
My eyes were stuck on the display as the light shot up and out in soft streaks of color, combusting into light sparkles when they reached the sky. "It's a light show," Serena spoke quietly, just loudly enough for me to hear. "Look over there. Do you see them?"
I squinted to see, following the line of where Serena pointed at the water. Just beyond the dancing lights were shadowed forms in the water. "Other mermaids?" I asked.
Serena hummed in response. "Our elders—the leaders. They're the only ones with enough power to do this," she explained. "There's only three, but they're incredibly powerful."
"The rest of the pod watches from below," Bay whispered, leaning into my shoulder again.
My eyebrows furrowed even in my concentration on the lights, "Why are you guys up here then?"
"It's a better view. And we're on a field trip, being on land," Serena answered.
Bay added, "It's like we're foreign exchange students—except no one really takes our place down there."
"So...you don't go home?" I asked, slow in my surprise.
"We'll go home when the field trip ends," Bay explained—sort of. "We're in training right now, at college. You don't go home halfway through college, right? You finish it."
That helped it make a little more sense, but it was still saddening to think about. They couldn't see their friends or be with their family. All they could do was see them in passing under the waves, only to have to come back to land.
As the sun was gone completely, and the sky was almost black, the lights shone brighter and more vibrantly as they exploded above the water. Streaks of glowing aqua danced up through the air, smearing the sky like a paint brush.
Echos of the colors lingered there in their place for a moment before fading out, only to be replaced by another splash of bright color. I hadn't noticed when it had started, but music played not far to my right. The realization caused me to lean forward and look around Bay.
My eyes landed on the source almost instantly—seeing as the sounds were coming from a stereo not far from Brooke and Nerissa, just down the rocks from Bay and Nick beside me.
I returned my eyes to the water in time to see a big splash. A large, wide wall of water sprayed up and out, droplets coming so far out to pepper us watching on the shore. In amongst the splash was something I couldn't quite fathom.
Ocean in the shape of the human form. There were three that I counted in the center, jumping up with the water and dancing it in until it crashed back down into the waves below. The other girls laughed as the sprinkles of water hit us.
Holding my hands up to block it from getting into my eyes, I leaned back instinctively—but otherwise kept my eyes on the water. It had me in awe. "Here it comes, here it comes!" Bay was exploding with anticipation beside me.
Following her exclamation, thick pillars of water erupted from the ocean, shooting up high into the sky like geysers. I gasped in surprise, lurching to the left as my eyes followed them up, craning my neck back to see them.
When my side hit something solid, I knew I'd flung myself into someone. It brought my attention away from the show long enough to scoot back into my previous spot in a quick retraction—mumbling an embarrassed apology to David.
I could feel his eyes on me, but I didn't look. I didn't dare move my eyes from the chutes of ocean dancing upward for fear I might turn a deeper shade of pink than I already had.
My heart was beating rapidly throughout what seemed to be the finishing act of the display. The geysers twisted together in a large braid of water, twisting with a multitude of bright colors, as they came crashing down.
When the water had rejoined to the ocean, the girls all erupted in a chorus of hollers, whistles, and thunderous applause. I clapped along with them, smiling wide from the amazing show.
"What did you think, Shelley?" Serena shouted a little to be heard over the applause, leaning forward to see me. "Did you like it?"
"It was amazing!" I answered her, the awe of it all turning into pure excitement.
She climbed off the rock border and hurried around David to reach me, grabbing my wrist. "Come on, let's dance!" she exclaimed, happily.
My eyes moved around her, to find the others had begun to get up as well. The stereo played an upbeat song I had no knowledge of—but it's melody was definitely made for dancing. It was in the way it was sung, the way it was played.
Serena tugged on my wrist and I got up, however unsure I was. I was not one for public dancing. I knew how, I supposed I was good at it—but I was not fond of doing such things in the sight of other beings.
There was a pull other than that on my wrists, a pull that kept me moving toward the others with her. It was a bubbly feeling in my chest that made it impossible to stop smiling. Serena pulled me along, a hand on either of my wrists, and we spun around.
With the moonlight alone, the space was lit up without trouble of sight. Ithaca and Brooke danced in the space around us. The energy was turned up higher than it had been thus far—more powerful and influential than I'd ever felt.
I was dancing, bouncing between Serena and Ithaca. It seemed so silly but all of us were laughing too hard to take it to heart. After a while, I was too out of breath to continue. So I broke from the others and took a seat on the rock border to catch my breath.
Watching the others dance was almost as entertaining as dancing along with them. They all looked so happy, so free. And it was completely natural for them. Secretly, I envied their ability to be so free-spirited. Never could I let myself be that way naturally.
It was something I had to work toward—yet they were born with it. Bay seemed so happy, dancing with Nick behind the shadow of the other girls. Brooke, Ithaca, and Serena bounced around as if they possessed no sense of gravity.
A shadow passed over me, and I looked away from the girls—feeling a presence at my side. The face I saw was one I'd never wanted to see again, but feared that it was inevitable. The man that had me thrown into the ocean off the docks—Oliver, I recalled his name being—sat inches from my side.
I didn't want to, but I couldn't help staring at him. It was a habit of shock I couldn't seem to quit. Any happy feelings I'd held felt like they were slipping through my fingers. "Look at them," he said, watching the girls with a softly pleased expression. "They look so happy."
"Get away from me," I spoke a bit more quietly than I intended, a side effect of my fear.
"Ouch. That's a little rude, don't you think?" he feigned offense, finally turning to look at me. His expression only remained that way for a moment, before changing quickly to something smug.
My jaw clenched, "Please get away from me."
"Or what? What exactly do you think you can do to me?"
"What do you want from me?" I questioned, my eyebrows furrowing in my frustration. "Why can't you just leave me alone?"
He leaned in closer, lowering his voice, and I reclined my torso a fraction to avoid his proximity as he spoke, "I don't want anything from you. I want what you can do to him. And you're going to give me that—because you're a damsel. And what do damsels do better than become distressed?"
A second male voice spoke after Oliver's, this one calm and collected—but it carried an undertone of anger too strong to miss. Oliver looked up and slightly behind him, and I took the opportunity to look away from him, moving only my eyes.
It was for survival—the staring. Keeping an eye on him so I could detect a move with enough time to run. The short moment I felt like I could look away was enough to see the second voice belonged to David, though I didn't need to see him to know.
Oliver's expression was one of confidence. He was not worried, he was not afraid. He looked convinced that no one could harm him regardless of his actions, so it was futile to try and challenge him. "Can't it wait? I'm having a conversation here," he mused.
"I said, get up," David repeated, more forceful.
His hand latched onto Oliver's arm and he yanked him up off the rock border, a display of anger that was truly unexpected. Oliver ripped his arm free as soon as he was standing, and he pushed David away, causing David to take steps back.
The girls seemed to notice the disruption then, stopping clean in their tracks to look on in shock. "You're not welcome here, brother," David told Oliver, in a low tone.
"Well, too bad you're not the one who invited me," Oliver countered, sounding overly smug.
David's gaze instantly shot to his left, and I looked that way to find Nerissa standing at the other end of the pool's border. His face seemed to change to read a thousand things. Confusion, regret, disappointment, and a million others.
In that split second he'd looked away, Oliver lurched forward. Not looking, David didn't see it until it was too late, and Oliver's fist connected with his jaw. I'd jolted backward in surprise, startled by the act of sudden violence.
The other girls shrieked—all but Brooke, who instead started walking toward the two men. "Hey, knock it off!" she practically barked at them, her voice heavily demanding and authoritative.
David didn't seem to listen. He righted himself from Oliver's hit, pulling his hand from his jaw to expose the glistening red on his lips, with a certain darkness to his eyes.
He dove forward, bending to ram his shoulder into Oliver's abdomen, tackling him backward into the rock border. Oliver's knees hit the border at a speed that caused both men to fly over it and tumble into the water in a ball of flailing limbs.
"Is this what you wanted?" Serena yelled at Nerissa. "They're going to kill each other!"
Nerissa didn't seem bothered too much by Serena's angry words. I couldn't be bothered with watching for the others' reactions much. I got up on my knees to turn around and look into the pool, scanning the dark waves that lapped at the edge.
There was no movement to be seen, not through the darkness. It was too thick. It was too opaque. Ithaca, Serena, and Brooke had rushed to the border to do the same as I, but to no avail. Bay and Nick rushed over last, being the farthest away.
I looked to the others, the adrenaline from the event causing my body to tremble. "What do we do?" I questioned, asking no one soul in particular.
"There's nothing we can do," Ithaca said, helplessly.
"Can't we go down there?" I pressed the subject rather urgently.
Nick glanced at me as if my question was heinous, "If any one of us go down there, we'll get more bloody than they will. It's too dangerous. We just have to wait it out."
It pained me to think of it—the truth to Nick's words. The idea of waiting to see who came out alright was one too helpless for me to fathom. I hurried around the others to the spot where I'd left my clothes and began putting them back on.
Bay, closest to me, turned to see me. "Be careful in the woods at night," she warned, her voice quiet. These words were only meant for me, I knew. "Follow the path and you'll find it."
I didn't know how she knew what I knew—but then I remembered what Ithaca had said about her. That she could see into a person's soul. Whether I believed that to be possible or not was irrelevant, because it seemed to be true as it was.
Once my clothes were on over my still wet swimsuit, I ran for the path we'd come from to get here. The others didn't seem to notice my intentions until I did, and some called after me, but I kept going.
It was a small chance that I would find what I was looking for. Most likely, I would end up getting myself lost and have to spend the night curled up under a sturdy tree. Though, that didn't necessarily stop me from trying.
I was capable of diving outside my comfortable depth when the right emotions drove me to such insanity. This was one of those instances, with thanks to my guilt. If it hadn't been for me, it wouldn't have happened.
The horse chase, the confrontation on the pier, and now this altercation—with all these things having me as a prime object in common. Though I didn't choose to be that thing causing commotion and strife, I was.
My bare feet pattered quickly along the dirt path, stumbling through the trees in the dark, with nothing but my vague memory to guide the way. Adrenaline kept me going but it also made me want to stop. It made me want to turn around.
There was a certain range of visibility even in the darkest places—I could make out the curves, twists, and turns of the path to know for the most part what direction I was running in.
When I began to hear the ocean, I knew I'd gone to far. So I followed the path to the next available left and continued that way. It took me away from the beach, almost far enough not to hear it anymore, in a direction I still questioned.
Low branches hit my face, causing me to sputter and quickly move my arms to evade them even as I ducked. I moved through them in a matter of seconds, and the other side opened to an empty space, one I'd seen before.
The open area allowed for moonlight access, making it possible to see just where I was. I'd found it—the little row house by the lake. I took steps onward, continuing my course as my eyes scanned the space.
I'd been to this place before, in the daylight—when I could see every detail. But I hadn't paid as much attention as I ought to have. Though lighting was still a bit dim, my eyes could focus on a solid object by the edge of the lake.
It was unmoving, just a shadow. Something I was sure my mind had conjured up out of sheer desperation. But then it moved—and I felt my stomach in my toes. I moved faster, picking up speed the more I neared the shadow, and the image became clearer.
The object was not an object, and the shadow not a shadow—something deep down I had already deduced. "David?" I called out his name. He lay on his side, almost face down, half in and half out of the body of the water.
His clothes appeared torn, red streaking the areas of skin exposed. As soon as I'd spoken, he lifted his head, and he outstretched a hand in my direction to ward off my approach. "Stay back!" he replied, only looking up for a second before hanging his head weakly. "Don't come any closer."
I did as told out of sheer surprise from hearing those words. Standing at least two to three yards away from him, I could not help him. I could only watch with worry. "Why?" I questioned.
"It's not safe for you—you must leave."
"I'm not leaving. Look at you! What harm could you do like that?"
He lifted his head enough to look at me, his features grim, "More than you believe."
With an exhale, I looked back at the trees in indecision. Of course I could go back to the others and rejoin them. I could pretend this encounter meant nothing and act as though it never happened. But the part of me that needed to do the right thing, didn't want to.
There was no way I could leave him there like that in good conscious, and I was not about to. I would never be able live with myself if I did. "You won't hurt me," I decided, breaking my stance to continue forward.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because that's not who you are."
He sounded confused, "You don't even know me."
I knelt beside him, and he looked up as much as he could. He was laboring to breathe—and it made me feel even more guilt-ridden than I had before, if that were even possible. "I don't have to," I told him. "I trust you."
David only hung his head, shaking it slowly. It was obvious to me he thought I must be a special kind of unintelligent to do such a thing. But I didn't mind it. Many people have thought many things of me. If I stopped to consult each and every person's opinions, I would not have a life anymore.
I did my best to pull his arm over my shoulders and lift up. Seeing as he didn't have many other options, David pushed himself up as well, making it easier to get him off the ground. The hissing sounds of discomfort and pain he made were disheartening.
He leaned into me only with what weight was absolutely necessary as we shuffled together across the grass, toward the row house. It was a bit of an effort, but we got there, after a while of walking. The door was unlocked when I tried to open it.
It made me wonder if this was even a place of residence, what with him always leaving it unlocked. Pushing that thought aside, we got inside the small mudroom just past the door. "There's no electricity," David explained, before I could reach for the light switch.
"Do you have candles?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
He replied, through gritted teeth, "Yes. They're in a cabinet, in the kitchen."
The darkness inside the row house made it almost impossible to see anything at all. As my eyes adjusted, I could at least make sure I didn't walk into a wall. I reached my hand out as we reached a shadow I knew was furniture.
In my mind, it seemed to me like some kind of end table. Of course, I couldn't quite tell without proper lighting, but I was doing my best. "Sit here," I said, turning to move him closer to the object. "I'll find the candles."
David did not protest my idea in sitting. Instead, he eased himself onto the piece of furniture, the wood creaking beneath his weight, and he exhaled deeply. "Give me your hand," he instructed, as I'd stepped away from him. I was curious to his reasoning, but I did as requested, and found his hand with mine. "Go in that direction, turn left. It will be at your right."
He moved my hand out to aim it in the direction he spoke of. I nodded, though he could not see, "Alright. I'll be right back." As I spoke, I stepped away, and I started walking in the direction of which he pointed my hand.